Garrett County FB wins award for reviving livestock expo, sale event
McHENRY, Md. — When the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the country last year, shuttering schools and businesses and forcing people into lockdown, it was going to take Garrett County’s annual 4-H & FFA livestock auction with it.
But the county Farm Bureau thought better of it.
The event, which was usually put on with the assistance of the University of Maryland Extension, was going to be canceled as the university shut down completely along with the rest of the state government, said Shaina Saturday, president of the county Farm Bureau. The Farm Bureau intervened to figure out how such an event could proceed.
“We wanted to support (the kids) in that way and show them that Farm Bureau can be a voice in that venue,” she said. “There’s a learning aspect that happens when you’re showing against other (kids) in the same ring, and the judge can interact with you.”
The American Farm Bureau Federation recognized the county chapter earlier this month with a County Activities of Excellence award. The program recognizes more than 20 county Farm Bureaus nationwide each year for unique volunteer-driven local programming. The awards recognize several categories of activity, including education and ag promotion, member services, public relations and information, leadership development and policy implementation.
The Garrett County Farm Bureau Livestock Expo and Sale was held at the county Agriculture Fair from Aug. 4-8, 2020, with a sale on the final day, Saturday said. To get it off the ground, the Farm Bureau worked with the county health department and the Garrett County Livestock Association. At the time, COVID hadn’t ravaged Western Maryland as it had to the rest of the state. Changes were necessary, however. In the past, participants registered in person at the show ring, waiting in line. Instead, Saturday had them do it online. They distributed masks and hand sanitizer. They tried to spread out the shows and held smaller classes, and like anyone else holding events at the time, everyone was encouraged to stand at least 6 feet apart. But the expo adopted a hashtag, #StillFarming, to emphasize the necessity of farmers during a crisis.
“That was our motto the whole week,” Saturday said. “We as farmers still need to keep farming.”
Emma Rush, 19, of Oakland, Md., was concerned she might miss one of the last opportunities to show animals with 4-H friends.
“I was just afraid that we wouldn’t be able to get together and have the fun times like we usually do and make the memories that we usually get to make,” she said.
She ended up showing a steer, a heifer, a market goat and at least four dairy cows owned by relatives. And thanks to business owners and members of the community, the sale shattered records, Saturday said. More than 230 animals were sold with gross sales of more than $430,000.
“I think it was a public statement from our community that regardless of COVID they were still going to support our kids,” she said.
Rush thanked Farm Bureau.
“We were very grateful that Farm Bureau was able to come up with a plan for us to be able to show our livestock,” she said. “It was so greatly appreciated, especially for the kids where it was their last year.”